At times being an optimist can be a costly exercise. Is optimism a high risk / high reward lifestyle compared to playing safe? Or does playing safe carry greater risks with fewer rewards? Unfortunately the way many organisations are structured rewards the latter rather than the former.
Surely optimism is the only way we can truly hope to move forward. If we cannot imagine a brighter future surely we can’t attain one? And if we are not in pursuit of a brighter future, then?
The alternative to promoting a brighter future: To not see a future, or to promote a worse one? By my book that leads to followers who will either be inert or doomsayers, and an outcome I don’t wish to be part of.
Must Leaders actively promote a better future? I contend this is one of the most valued, but unrecognized, parts of the role.
Leaders must be optimists and must share the optimism with their followers.
In researching this post I came across strategic philosopher Max More who kindly gave me permission to reference one of his essays from 1991.
I have redrafted his list of characteristics of a ‘Dynamic optimist’ as follows (download Max More’s actual list here)
INTERPRETING EXPERIENCE POSITIVELY:
- Selective Positive Focus
- Refraining from Complaining
- A fundamental creative openness to possibilities.
- A Sense of Abundance
- Constructive Humor
INFLUENCING OUTCOMES POSITIVELY:
- Reason, not fear or desire
- Seeking continual self-improvement
- Experimental and fresh
- Personal integrity and responsibility.
- Creating positive environments
[pullquote]Merely believing that everything will work out fine without taking action makes one a foolish optimist, not a dynamic optimist.
For optimism to give us the power to overcome the limits in our lives it needs to fully recognize reality, not hide from it. Max More[/pullquote]
I think this is a timeless and tremendously inspiring list and recommend placing it prominently in ‘your head’ or in your office. It also measures well against those leaders (in all walks of life) I most admire.
Its relevance for the current times is absolute. We need optimism desperately (is that oxymoronic?). True leaders must step up and lead the ‘dynamic optimists’ charge, with a keen eye for the others in their midst/teams.
Nothing in Max More’s list is kooky or too new-age, it is concrete and actionable. Anyone can do this, in any occupation or lifestyle.
The worst part is it’s harder than it looks.
In the mode of dynamic optimist it is however easier than what the alternative will create. I’m an optimist but now I’m going to be more actively so.
Are you willing to give it a whirl? My prediction is this will improve your future as a leader and as a human being.
I’m printing this out now, by the time this post is launched (one week hence) I’ll give you an update of the impact.
Note: I also urge you once more to visit Max More’s site for a great mind workout.